Today marks 75 days until the start of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in London. As London prepares to welcome the world for the Olympics, the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. organized a medley of sports activities, or "Embassy Olympics," in recognition last month of the "100 Days To Go" mark.
On April 18, international colleagues from the diplomatic community joined to compete in the "Embassy Olympics." SportsUnited representatives from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs along with their colleagues in the Bureau of International Information Programs and Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs were key "players" in the event.
Even the rainy weather -- true to form for a British activity -- did not dampen the spirits of the participants. Embassy teams enthusiastically represented countries that have previously hosted the Olympics including Australia, Canada, Greece, Russia, and Switzerland.
The D.C. based "Embassy Olympics" served as an opportunity to spotlight the impact of sports diplomacy and for the State Department's SportsUnited team to share its "game plan" of special activities focused on the 2012 Olympic Games with the local embassies. During this Olympic Year, the State Department is expanding its sports diplomacy endeavors, while all of our sports exchange programs seek to increase international mutual understanding through athletics -- a shared Olympic goal.
For example, we are currently hosting a soccer exchange program for Egyptian soccer coaches. In partnership with D.C. United, and its charitable organization United for D.C., the Egyptian coaches will participate in trainings and workshops with American athletes and attend clinics on coaching, sports administration, women's empowerment through sports, Title IX, conflict resolution, and disability sports. The visit of these coaches is a key component of the Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports Initiative, which aims to increase the number of women and girls worldwide who are involved in sports.
As we've seen through this initiative, and our other programs, sports have a unique ability to bring people together to foster greater understanding. And, the "Embassy Olympics" was no exception. The activity was an inspirational all-around sports diplomacy experience!
The afternoon kicked-off with a fast-paced basketball three-pointer contest and an exciting -- albeit nerve-racking -- round of soccer penalty shots. Next on the line-up was the 100 meter dash and shot put. The friendly competition finished with a four-person relay race, which was a wonderful team way to wrap up the day. British Ambassador Peter Westmacott awarded medals to the winning "country" teams.
From start to finish, the “Embassy Olympics” was a way to bring the Olympics to Washington D.C., to show the State Department's support for the Olympics, and to unify nations around the shared passion for sports. Everyone left the event feeling positive about the fast-approaching Olympic summer games.
Cindy Gire is the Director of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' SportsUnited Office at the U.S. Department of State.